Violence over cartoons in Pakistan leaves three dead

Three people died and franchises of a Norwegian phone firm, an American fast-food restaurant and banks were set ablaze in Pakistan on Wednesday, the third day of violence over cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.

More than 20 000 people, including traders, students and Islamist radicals, took part in protests in cities in North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and the eastern city of Lahore.

Police said that, while the majority of the protesters were peaceful, one man was killed in an exchange of fire between students and police in Lahore, where two people died on Tuesday.

In Peshawar, an eight-year-old boy was killed by a bullet fired in the air and a man was killed by a electricity pole that fell, police and hospital officials said.

Police fired tear gas in Peshawar and several other towns in NWFP. In Peshawar, protesters set fire to two franchises of the Norwegian mobile phone firm Telenor, a KFC fast-food outlet, as well as banks, cinemas, a bus terminal and several buses.

The protests have been the most serious in Pakistan - the second most populous Muslim country and a key ally in the US-led war on terrorism - since European papers republished the cartoons, which first appeared in Denmark in September.Many Muslims believe it is blasphemous to depict the Prophet.

President Pervez Musharraf chaired a meeting on the violence and warned that instigators would be dealt with sternly, reports Independent Online.


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